The "Little Crew," a group of teenagers associated with the street gang STC, was behind a string of recent early morning purse-snatchings in Northwest Washington, police say.
Officers have made at least nine arrests and charged gang members with a single robbery count. Police said the group stole cars, then cruised 14th Street NW looking for women waiting alone at bus stops. After the robberies, Little Crew members returned to their headquarters, a motel just over the District line in Silver Spring, police said. Last week, D.C. police charged a man who they said was part of the group, Paulo Demetrick, with robbery.
A D.C. police official said Little Crew was made up of STC affiliates too young to join the older gang. STC, whose initials stand for "Criminal Street," has been cited as one of Washington's major gangs. Its name came up after an Oct. 29 fatal shooting at Roosevelt High School in Northwest: Gunmen from a rival gang, Vatos Locos, shot two men after first asking if they belonged to STC.
Montgomery County police spokesman Derek Baliles said the group responsible for the robberies was loose-knit and not like the hardcore street gangs found in other cities.
"They started first of all as a social group," Baliles said. "And then they commit crimes."
D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) said that residents, already alarmed about the robberies, had expressed more concern because of the gang connection.
"It's going to take more than normal police work to stop it," Fenty said. "It just makes people feel more uneasy about the community they live in."
Also last week, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union complained to D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, saying that members had been barred from giving a presentation on surveillance cameras at a police service area meeting in Columbia Heights.
Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU's National Capital Area chapter, said that his group has already visited two PSA meetings. His organization opposes the cameras, which now watch over downtown and commercial areas in Northwest, and any expansion of their coverage into other neighborhoods.
But, Barnes said, when they asked to visit PSA 412, Capt. Alton Bigelow said they couldn't.
The ACLU wrote Ramsey last week, calling this response illegal and saying that police were seeking to "monopolize the PSA forum."
"Community support for the police depends on an informed public," Barnes said in the letter. "Only when people believe that the police department is pursuing programs that enhance safety will they cooperate with the department."
Bigelow, who oversees the southern half of the 4th Police District, said PSA meetings are designed only for discussions between the community and police; they are "crime-fighting meetings where you strategize with your community." A presentation by an outside group, he said, would be more appropriate at the monthly Citizens' Advisory Council meeting.
Ramsey, interviewed Friday, said he hadn't seen the letter but agreed with Bigelow.